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Zurich stadium plans dealt potentially fatal blow

It looks like there will be no Euro 2008 games in the proposed Zurich stadium

(Keystone Archive)

A planned stadium complex in Zurich will reportedly not be ready in time to stage the 2008 European football championships.

According to the "NZZ am Sonntag" newspaper, the stadium's main investor, Credit Suisse (CS), is to take a continuing legal battle with locals and environmentalists to the Federal Court.

Citing reliable sources within CS, the paper reported that such a move would further delay the start of construction work, putting an end to any hope of staging three planned Euro 2008 matches in the new stadium.

The paper added that the city authorities had been informed that the case is likely to go to the Federal Court – Switzerland's highest legal authority.

But Urs Spinner, a spokesman for the city of Zurich's building department, said that a decision – which the city has to take jointly with CS – had not yet been made.

“The city of Zurich has taken note that CS is very interested in going to the Federal Court,” said Spinner.

“Bitterly disappointed”

The city’s mayor, Elmar Ledergerber, said he was "bitterly disappointed" that the stadium plans were unravelling.

Zurich is one of four cities chosen to stage Euro 2008 matches in Switzerland, which was selected to host the finals jointly with neighbouring Austria.

One of the main sticking points in the dispute is the maximum number of cars that will be allowed to park at the new Hardturm stadium.

Plans for the proposed complex, which has a price tag of around SFr370 million ($288 million), include a shopping centre to be built alongside the 30,000-seat stadium.

CS is calling for more parking spaces than local residents and environmentalists say they are prepared to accept. The bank argues that the venture will not otherwise be profitable. Opponents fear traffic congestion in and around the stadium area.

Sources close to the bank are also believed to be debating another option – giving up the stadium project altogether. But that move is considered unlikely.

Adapt Letzigrund?

If Zurich does not want to see the matches moved to another venue outside the city, an alternative would be to push on with plans to revamp an existing stadium, the Letzigrund athletics ground.

One proposal being considered is to turn the Letzigrund into a stadium that would meet the standards of European football’s governing body, Uefa.

The costs of renovating the athletics ground, which currently plays host to FC Zurich, are estimated at SFr110 million. An extra SFr15 million would be required for additional facilities necessary to stage the three European championship matches.

But with time running out for Zurich, a single appeal against the plans would also mean the end of the Euro 2008 games being staged at the Letzigrund.

While the city wrestles with the stadium problem, German football legend Franz Beckenbauer told CS's “emagazine” last week that he was “horrified” by the legal wrangling in Zurich.

Uefa response

“A European championship without Zurich! If I were a citizen of Zurich, I would want to avoid such an embarrassment. It would make headlines all over the world,” said Beckenbauer.

Uefa, which is based in Nyon, has also been watching developments closely and has warned of possible repercussions if Zurich were unable to host the three matches scheduled to take place in the city.

“Our organisation cannot guarantee that the three matches foreseen for Zurich will be played in Switzerland,” said Uefa's head of communications William Gaillard.

“They could be moved to Austria. All the logistics will have to be looked at again,” he added.

Gaillard also made the point that some stadiums in Portugal, which hosted Euro 2004, had taken only 18 months to build.

swissinfo, based on an article previously published by NZZ

Key facts

The Zurich stadium is one of four venues in Switzerland due to stage Euro 2008 matches.
Stadiums in Basel and Geneva are already in use, while building work in Bern is due to be completed next year.
If completed, the Zurich stadium will hold up to 30,000 seated spectators and be home to two football clubs: Grasshoppers and FC Zurich.

end of infobox

In brief

The main investor in the new stadium complex in Zurich, Credit Suisse, reportedly wants to take its legal battle with locals and enviromentalists to the Swiss Federal Court in Lausanne.

The dispute is centred on parking in the area.

Any further delay in starting construction work would mean that the stadium could not host the three planned European football championship matches in 2008.

Football legend Franz Beckenbauer has said he is “horrified” at what is going on in the city.

end of infobox


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